After being acquired by Japanese-based Rakuten in February for $900 million, the ubiquitous chat application Viber has made a significant announcement: the launch of a new social games platform.
It is clear that Viber, which builds its model mainly on VoIP services, is taking a leaf from Asian messaging platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and Line by introducing these games. However, at least initially, the games will be restricted to only five markets – namely Belarus, Malaysia, Israel, Singapore and Ukraine. Viber plans on introducing the games to its global audience by the end of January 2015 and will be available on both the iOS and Android platforms.
The introduction of games to messenger apps is a trend that started in Asian markets but is now extending worldwide
In what is similar to existing messaging applications, Viber said that by linking an account to the games platform, users will be able to send gifts, check leaderboards, challenge friends, share their scores and other associated activities. There will be options for in-game purchases as well, which is where Viber plans on earning most of its revenue.
The game developers for Viber are Storm 8 and Playtika – which have both produced games for Viber before. The characters in the games are the same as those featured in Viber’s stickers, which brings an element of cohesion to the design.
Undoubtedly the successful model of Japan’s LINE is a reason for Viber’s decision. In Q3 2014 alone, LINE earned $192 million in revenue thanks to games and has seen a total of 300 million cumulative downloads from its two-year-old gaming platform. Viber founder Talmon Marco also said that it was Viber’s strategy to maintain a small number of niche titles rather than a huge library – emphasizing quality over quantity. He said:
“We will partner with other game developers in the future, but our approach is not to have hundreds of games, just a small, highly curated selection.”
Companies that spearheaded the growth of social games on their applications were WeChat and Line – who built highly profitable models, thereby prompting the likes of Tango and Viber to replicate. However, Marco was quick to affirm that Viber’s core focus remains its messaging function and that the games platform has been designed specifically so as to not interfere with that. What is clear, however, that Viber users can look forward to something new very soon.